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4 Sure Fire Ways Leaders Shoot Themselves in the Foot

shoot yourself in the foot

Regardless of your leadership role, successful communication is a necessary factor in your success. I am not talking about that ability to capture the attention of a crowd, convey vision, or inspire others, although these are wonderful leadership skills. I’m talking about the way you communicate with people in your personal interactions.

Communication can nurture your relationships and boost your credibility or it can destroy your relationships and ability to influence.

Don’t fool yourself! It’s a myth that some people are leaders, and others are not. The truth is: we all lead. Your primary leadership role may be in leading yourself, but that’s counts! It’s still leading. You don’t have to have an official title or capacity to be a leader. There is no denying that being a solopreneur; entrepreneur, parent, or simply influencing your circle of friends is acting as a leader. A leader is more than being the one in charge. It’s conducting yourself in a way that inspires others to follow. It’s taking responsibility for, and being in charge of moving ideas, projects, or people in an intentional direction.

Here are four sure fire ways I see leaders shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to communicating, resulting in a limp that hinders their ability to lead:

1. Making Empty Promises

Over the years, I’ve encountered leaders who had a habit of making promises that they did not keep. Not only was it frustrating, it also created some unfortunate circumstances and damaged my trust in those individuals. There have even been some situations where broken promises have resulted in me taking my business elsewhere.

Where have you experienced empty promises? What effect has it had on your relationships either personally, professionally, or with business connections?

Circumstances do come up that make following through with a promise impossible. In such cases, it is incredibly important to immediately communicate what the situation is and how you will make things right on your end. It might cost you in the short run, but not communicating will cost you even more in the long run.

2. Failing to Establish Expectations and Give Feedback

When a project or those under your leadership are not going the way you want them to, it’s easy to blame others. If you are the leader, then how things are going is ultimately your responsibility. When an assignment, project, or task is not going well, more often than not it can be traced back to the fact that expectations and feedback were missing.

When expectations and feedback are missing, it creates uncertainty. It’s hard for anyone to perform at their best in that environment. It’s impossible for others to just know or read your mind. I’ve repeatedly witnessed this playing out in the workplace. The manager, or leader in charge, will hand off an assignment only to be radically disappointed with the results. It’s typical to blame the individual executing the assignment, but in reality, without establishing clear expectations at the onset of the project, the responsibility for the disappointing outcome is the leaders. If the leader handing off the project had checked in along the way and offered feedback, then adjustments could have been.

Humans crave feedback; they want to know how they are doing and how they can improve. Feedback is not always negative. Sharing feedback about what those under your leadership did well makes it possible for them to repeat desired behaviors. Feedback guiding them to better results in the future makes it possible for them to improve their work. Who doesn’t want that?

In spite of feedback framed in a positive light being powerful, leaders are often reluctant to give it. That leaves their team members lost in a valley of vagueness and unable to deliver the desired results.

When you know what’s expected, what you did well, and helpful insights into how you can do better in the future it creates a sense of safety and security. It allows people to grow and perform better.

3. Communicating Unprofessionally

As texting has become a more popular means of communicating, leaders have resorted to shorthand ways of communicating in professional situations. While I enjoy the ease and speed of texting, and even sometimes take shortcuts when keeping up with family or friends, that way of communicating professionally is inappropriate. Using proper capitalization and punctuation without taking shortcuts communicates a level of respect that never hurts in the work environment.

Communicating properly, even in e-mails, conveys respect and that the person you are communicating with is important enough to take the time to do things correctly. It also allows you to communicate more clearly. You don’t have to be stuffy, or someone you aren’t. In this day and age, you will set yourself apart in a powerful way if you choose to communicate correctly.

4. Creating Communication Voids

The adage “no news is good news” is just not true. When there’s a lack of communication it creates a space for negative thoughts to arise. Those thoughts then color future interactions and have the potential to lead to misunderstandings and negativity.

Want to eliminate the potential for negative feelings? Following up promptly makes a difference, even if it is just to say I will get back to tomorrow when I know more. Don’t let too much time go by with those you lead or those you have significant business relationships with – check in periodically. You will be surprised by the positive impact staying in touch has on your role as a leader.

Leave a comment! I’d love to hear what troubles you when it comes to communication. What’s the impact on your relationships either personally or professionally? What small step can you take improve your communication to be sure your leadership is not operating with a limp?

Eager to improve your communication skills? That’s just one of the many topics we work on in The LAB.

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps clients expand their possibilities—and become the leaders God made them to be!

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